Authentic assessment: What does it mean and how is it instantiated by a group of distance learning academics?


  • Denise Whitelock The Open University
  • Simon Cross The Open University


This paper reports on a project undertaken at The Open University which set out to explore academics' notion and practice of authentic assessment. The findings revealed that authentic assessment is not only a difficult notion to define but it is also problematic to collate features within an assessment task that define it as authentic assessment. An electronic questionnaire was constructed to investigate academics' understanding of authentic assessment. The tutors' perceptions of authentic assessment fell into two distinct areas: one that is associated with real world scenarios and the other linked to the construction and marking of an authentic assessment task. The findings point the way towards increasing the understanding of this concept in order to avoid making assessment appear on the surface to be more like real life but with the students still perceiving the questions to be rather artificial and contrived.